Windfall for medallists
Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs in the Office of the Vice President, Alexia Manombe-Ncube, has assured the 2016 Rio Paralympic medallists of a financial windfall, after their sterling performances at the recently concluded games.
Manombe-Ncube confirmed this on Thursday at an official welcoming ceremony for the country’s disabled athletes, who returned from Rio on Wednesday night.
The deputy minister said plans were in the pipeline to reward the Rio medallists in the same way as London Paralympics silver and gold medallist Johanna Benson.
Benson was rewarded with a house worth N$1,5 million in Walvis Bay, a total of N$170,000 in grants, and a diplomatic passport through the Office of the President.
The most likely athletes to be rewarded are gold and bronze medallist Ananias Shikongo and sprinter Johannes Nambala, who won a silver medal at the Rio Games.
“The government is busy with the details of the rewards and we must be able to have everything in place within the coming weeks. The athletes have made us proud and have shown that nothing is impossible when you work hard.
“As we know, most of the people are not in the country, and that is why we do not have the exact amounts of how much everyone will be getting. As promised before you went to the Paralympics, the winners will also receive their bonuses,” the deputy minister said.
Sport, Youth and National Service Minister, Jerry Ekandjo, congratulated the athletes.
“You have done the nation proud by setting an example that disability is not inability. I believe it is time that we focus resources and attention on producing more Paralympic athletes and medallists. Being determined and committed and starting as early as possible, we can have an even stronger representation at the next Paralympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo.
“Parents with children living with disabilities must not hide their children, but should introduce them to the Namibia Paralympics Committee and other agencies, offices, organizations and people who can offer opportunities, so that they can see what is possible and maybe follow in the footsteps of these heroes,” Ekandjo said.
The Namibian team in Rio included nine athletes, four guides and seven officials. The team’s Chef de Mission was Nicklaus Nghumoono.
With the promises for bonuses given by the government, life for Shikongo and Nambala, who share a shack in the Goreangab informal settlement, is expected to change for the better.
For many years, both Shikongo and Nambala have been living in harsh conditions without electricity, running water and poor sanitation at a place owned by Shikongo’s brother.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer back in 2013, gold medallist Shikongo said that he had remained optimistic despite living in poor conditions. At that time, Shikongo explained how he had to struggle with transport money just to come to training or money to put bread on the table.
This is something which he believes drove him to become an African champion and a gold medallist at the Rio Paralympics three years later.
It appears that Shikongo had already decided his fate even before leaving for Brazil after he assured the media that he was bringing back home a gold medal.